No Wind Beneath Our Wings: The Problematic SG/SF Situation

The Wolves are a team that, for the long term, appears to be set at point guard (I would call it unlikely that both Rubio and Flynn will bust) and in the post (assuming, of course, that Love and Jefferson can play together). They've got at least one dynamic point guard and two excellent post players plugged into their roster long-term. 

Where they are extraordinarily weak, however, is on the wings. Below the jump, let's look at what they have there right now, what the Contending Wolves of Three Years Hence will need on the wings, and how to bridge that gap.

We all know that the Wolves are probably the worst team in the NBA at the shooting guard and small forward positions. I actually thought about this, and I don't think there is a crummier team at those two positions. There are five players who you'd call "wings" on the team: Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Wayne Ellington, Brian Cardinal, and Damien Wilkins. The last two may see some spot duty for the Wolves this year, but either or both could be gone at the trade deadline, and neither will be a member of the Contending Wolves of Three Years Hence. 


So we'll discuss the other three. The bottom line is that any starting 2/3s on the Contending Wolves of Three Years Hence need to be athletic. David Kahn wants to run, and both Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn will be at their best flying around, whipping passes to people flying around with them. As it stands, the Wolves are an unathletic team. Assuming that eventually Rubio becomes the starting point guard (not an entirely safe assumption, by the way), the starting 1, 4, and 5 will be occupied by skilled but relatively unathletic --by NBA standard-- players. There needs to be athleticism on the team, which hopefully will come in the form of Flynn, Hollins (or whoever we draft to fill his theoretical role) and the starting 2 and 3. Here are the three 2/3 players who may have a future with the team, and how they'll fit.

Corey Brewer -- Brewer is somewhat of a frustrating case. Because, in theory, he is the perfect small forward for this current roster. When playing well, Brewer's length and quickness make him an awesome perimeter defender. Even when playing well, he doesn't need to -- or flat out can't -- create his own offense, or handle the ball. And a somewhat underrated aspect of Brewer's game is his ability to hit spot-up jumpers. If he reaches his potential, Brewer would fit wonderfully alongside Rubio/Flynn. He'd defend well, get out and finish on the break, maybe spot up for open fast-break threes, and get the hell out of the way in the halfcourt and let Rubio/Love or Flynn/Love work some pick and roll magic. 

That makes it easy to overvalue Brewer. Because so far, he hasn't shown signs of being able to reach his potential. He often seems confused on the court, even in summer league. I realize he missed a lot of action with an ACL tear, but especially for someone with so little natural feel for the game, that's not a reason to dismiss shortcomings, but rather a reason to worry about more to come. I think Brewer should start and play heavy minutes this year (as painful as it could get to watch), because if he can "put it together," that could be another position locked up long-term in the starting line-up. Perhaps more likely, however, is that he won't make strides in his offensive game, and be made a limited-minutes defensive specialist, or simply released from the Contending Wolves of Three Years Hence.

Ryan Gomes -- In many ways, Gomes is the anti-Brewer. He's not frustrating because he isn't reaching his potential, but because he likely already has. Gomes is a pretty lunch-pail, predictable type of player. He's not an athlete, not a creator. But he is a steady, reliable mid-range jumpshooter whose range can sometimes extend to the three-point line. He's an average defender, but a pretty good rebounder. Basically, Gomes is an ideal 7th or 8th man, a backup forward who can space the floor, rebound, and exploit the occasional match-up against a slower, lumbering power forward who can't guard him 15 feet from the basket. That's what he is. Which is why I think Gomes should come off the bench this season. Don't get me wrong, he has done more to deserve to start than Brewer. But on the Contending Wolves of Three Years Hence, Brewer may be a starter. Gomes will not be. This season is about finding out who fits into what roles, and beginning to establish roles for the players who will be on the team in the long-term. Gomes will be a back-up when the Wolves are ready to contend. Might as well be one now, then. Brewer could be anywhere from starting to off the team. In order to figure out what we have in Brewer, Gomes has to come off the bench.

Wayne Ellington -- Ellington's hard to project because he's never played in an NBA game, obviously. But we know that he's a shooter who is fairly average in other aspects of the game. But that quality makes him a good fit for this roster, because along with athleticism, the 2 and 3 of the Contending Wolves need to provide jump-shooting and floor-spacing. If Ellington could prove to be a decent perimeter defender and a capable ball-handler, he also has a shot at starting long-term. More likely, I'd say, is that Ellington will be a valuable sniper off the bench for the Contending Wolves. He's not the long, rangy athlete that is an important component to the line-up. That said, I think he should start at the 2 this year for the same reasons as Corey. 

If what I've said in this post is right, the wing rotation on The Contending Wolves of Three Years Hence might shake out like this: A 6'8 or taller explosive athlete whose best attributes are his defense, shooting, and ability to finish in transition at both the starting 2 and the 3. If Brewer makes strides towards becoming an adequate ball-handler (to the point where he's not a liability) plus continues to improve his jumpshot, he could be one of those two. If not, he won't be on the team. Ellington and Gomes will be the back-ups at both positions, each bringing good spot-up shooting that would complement either of the starters well.


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